Visioning Process Results in Inspiring “Why Statement”

The Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota Boards of Directors unveiled its Why Statement at the Joint Annual Meeting June 14th-16th in Omaha. The Why Statement articulates the purpose of the conferences and will help guide future decisions.

The statement reads: “To live into God’s extravagant welcome and advocate for justice. So that all know love, safety, belonging and dignity.” (View the full statement)

Board member Dustin Barlett explains, “It was important to us that we capture the inclusive spirit of the United Church of Christ. We wanted to go beyond simply ‘welcome,’ and state explicitly that we’re talking about full inclusion and acceptance. People should be able to bring their authentic selves and find belonging in our communities of faith. That’s what God’s extravagant welcome means to us.” 

The statement was developed through a facilitated process with the three boards and staff from the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.

First, a landscape survey was sent to each congregation — inviting the pastor and another member of that congregation to complete it. The survey included questions that helped draw out church members’ satisfaction with the work of the conferences, determine the energy respondents have for the conferences, and determine what factors most drive satisfaction.

That survey data was collected and presented in a report to the Boards of Directors before the first working session in late April. The data was presented in aggregate and with break outs of individual conferences.

The survey data showed that members believe these five main things drive their satisfaction with the organization:

  • The Conferences’ ability to help each member understand what role they have to play.
  • Conference leadership has developed a shared vision that unites us.
  • Conference leadership provides strong and competent support to my congregation during challenging times.
  • The Conferences make available policies and procedures that are helpful in the day-to-day operation of a church. 
  • The Conferences do a good job communicating with one another in a way that keeps us aware and engaged.

The survey also showed what factors drive members’ energy about and for the conference:

  • The Conferences’ ability to help each member understand what role they have to play.
  • Conference leadership has developed a shared vision that unites us.
  • Conference meetings are a good use of time and energy.
  • The Conferences provide adequate opportunities for members to engage in work that is meaningful.
  • The whole spirit in our Conference makes people want to get as involved as possible. 

After learning about the survey results, the Boards of Directors gathered for two days in Sioux Falls, SD in late April to begin the work of articulating  a Why Statement, or the purpose of the organizations. Rev. Diane McClanahan and Rev. Carla Cain facilitated the process that began with small- and large-group storytelling prompted by the question, “I was most proud of the UCC when …” Those stories often included times when individuals felt women, LGBTQ persons, Native Americans, and other marginalized groups were welcomed into local or wider church settings.

Small groups then began to take the  major themes from those stories and weave them into what eventually became a tentative Why Statement.

Members of the Boards of Directors then met in early May and crafted a final Why Statement. The boards had opportunity to meet separately and together during these processes.

The Why Statement has already been guiding discussions and goal setting in board meetings, influencing the design of the upcoming website, and will continue to be an integral part of shaping our mission and action plans.

“The statement’s verbs — “live into, “advocate,” and “know” — claim active processes of participating and embracing the interdependence of people, our congregations, wider communities, and our shared creation,” says Board member Craig Henderson. “The “WHY” of the Conferences are not to be one-time invitations but rather an ongoing reach to our neighbors, a living out, an advocacy, and a shared “knowing” of who we are and whose we are.”

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